《Hokkaido: the migrants’ choice – from Niseko》
From the town of Niseko in the Shiribeshi sub-prefecture, where many migrants gather, we introduce stories surrounding the ‘choices’ of people who decided to relocate.
《Hokkaido: the migrants’ choice – from Niseko》 ⑦ Café offering ‘morning service’ originating from Aichi, opened by Yamamoto Takao
Makkari Base is a café that opened in February 2020, in a refurbished container house in a prime location facing Mt. Yotei (1,898 m) in the center of the village of Makkari, amid the rural landscape of Niseko’s neighboring region of Shiribeshi.
One of the café’s main selling points is its ‘morning service’, a standard part of menus in Aichi prefecture in Honshu. Customers ordering coffee between 7:30 and 10:30 a.m. receive toast, egg and salad at no extra charge.
The café is run by Yamamoto Takao (33), originally from the city of Toyohashi in Aichi prefecture. “From when I was a student, on my days off it was standard practice to go to cafes in the mornings with my friends and just hang out with a ‘morning’,” he explains.
Immediately after the café opened, Coronavirus infections spread. However, in Hokkaido, the unique morning service was gaining a reputation, and regular customers from neighboring communities increased.
Takao’s hobby of snowboarding was the catalyst in his decision to relocate. He first visited Niseko alone in winter at the age of 18. After turning 20, he stayed in Niseko and spent his spare time snowboarding while working there.
He could live just doing his part-time job, but after several years he began to “want a foundation to be able to relocate permanently to somewhere near the region.” The idea that came to Takao was a café with morning service, which was so natural for him and his friends back in his hometown of Toyohashi. “Many condominiums don’t provide breakfasts so we aimed at tourists’ needs. I think we can make the ‘culture’ of Aichi – where I’m from – a permanent fixture in and around the Niseko area.”
After relocating, the most unexpected thing was his parents – who are in their 50s – also deciding to move to Makkari a little later.
Until three years ago, his father, Shinichi was an employee of the major chemical company Mitsubishi Chemical. He worked for the company for 35 years but, “I would have been too late to enjoy life if I’d have waited for retirement.” He knew very little about Makkari but trusted his son’s judgement and “took the plunge”, taking early retirement at the age of 54. In the summer of 2018, Shinichi relocated to Makkari with his wife Misaki, to live in a renovated old house a few minutes’ drive from the home of Takao, his wife Yukari (30) and their granddaughter Juri (1).
As well as managing the café at lunchtime, on his days off, Shinichi goes picking mushrooms, makes homemade bacon, does DIY and the like, applying himself to lifework after relocating. “If you look around a little, you can find lots of forms of amusement that weren’t possible in Toyohashi.”
Every year, many young people from the regions aim to work in the city where, in Japan, the jobs are concentrated. Takao went against that flow by moving from the city to a regional village. “In the regions, with the right idea, anything is possible. There’s much more potential than in the cities,” he feels.
Snowboarding was the catalyst for whole family’s choice in relocating. A glimpse of a new regional lifestyle can be seen in the café in which urban experiences are put to use in the region.